Blizzcon 2014 Panel: Evolving Reaper of Souls


Blizzard of fix-it patches.

Blizzard of fix-it patches.

The second Diablo 3 panel from Blizzcon 2014 was held on Saturday afternoon, and it covered the evolution of Reaper of Souls. The first half of the panel focused on various elements of Diablo 3 at launch, and how they’ve changed over time. All areas of the game were mentioned, but Items received the most attention, which led into the Diablo 3 Legendary Design Workshop section of the panel, where ideas submitted by the community were whiteboarded and debated by the game devs.

The opening of the panel covered numerous features in the game upon launch, and how they’ve changed. The descriptions of the early game were quite negative in tone; surprisingly so. It was very much a “we made a lot of bad decisions and are glad to have fixed or at least improved upon them” and done with a rueful tone full of dark humor. No fingers were pointed and they didn’t bring Jay Wilson up in chains to flog him publicly, but watching live, I wouldn’t have been completely surprised if they had.

Topics included the 4-stage difficulty system and how players hit a wall in Inferno. The world design that incentivized players to run and rerun the same monsters, and spend more time in the game creation and waypoint menu than actually playing the game. (This part included some mention of DiabloWikiAlkaizer Runs, which were illustrated by a large slide showing the DiabloWiki.net article, which caused me to Twitter squeal.)

Slide from the panel.

Even Leah could see the troubles…

The aspects of items covered included:

  • Too much junk dropping made loot feel worthless.
  • Too much randomness and lack of affix weighting made good items too hard to obtain.
  • Too much of a “long tail” planned for item and economy progression.
  • Overlapping item quality (some blues better than some yellows, some yellows better than many legendaries) made progression fuzzy.
  • Poorly designed legendaries were just stat sticks rather than unique tools.
  • Junk affixes mixed all together on the same item. (e.g. STR on quivers.)
  • The Auction House short-circuited the item hunt reward concept.
  • Plus more, as you’ll see when you watch the panel below. And they they didn’t even get into things like the terrible crafting system, item power being way too tied to their item level, the lack of any way to socket or enchant gear, etc.

    Along with those faults they listed ways things have improved, chiefly with DiabloWikiLoot 2.0 and RoS introducing sorted affixes, smart drops, enchanting, much better legendary items, much higher drop rates, the end of the Auction House, and so on. Josh told an interesting story about how they decided to close the AH, and how it went from outrageous heresy to accepted strategy very quickly during the high level internal discussion.

    Anyway, watch the panel for yourself and see all of this in full detail. Click through for the embedded video, some more screens I took of the stage and slides during the show, and exclusive info about the D3 preparation for this year’s show, based on a conversation I had with one of the devs after this panel.

    All these pics were taken during the panel; I think most of them will be shown in the video, but I haven’t had time to watch it all yet. (The slides are shown on big monitors to the side of the stage, but are not displayed behind the speakers, so if the coverage doesn’t switch to show the slides when they’re up, panel viewers on TV don’t get the full powerpoint effect.)

    I talked to Julian Love after the panel and he was excited about it. He said they’d never done a panel before with unscripted, live content and weren’t sure if it would work; turning fans loose onstage. They were even worried about something like “what if someone falls walking up to the stage?” and had much lower stages with just three steps up than they’d had in past years. Plus no seats for the D3 devs during their panels, as they felt it kept their energy up and made interaction with the audience more immediate.

    I also asked Julian about something that I tweeted afterwards; why no new D3 designer shirts this year? Past years they had all new matching fashions, but this year all the D3 guys were just in regular clothes, or shirts they’d made for past Blizzcons. Julian took the question more seriously than I thought it was, and said it reflected their focus on the game. He mentioned how big and elaborate the new demo builds were in past shows, and how they spent literally months preparing for Blizzcon, planning out multiple panels with a ton of content, working on the demo, etc, and that time came directly out of working on the game itself.

    This year they didn’t worry about new clothing, only did two panels, kept their media commitments minimal, did a playable demo with new content, but one that’s just an emulation of a Grift, etc. This made for a decent Blizzcon D3 presence, but in a year with so much from their other games, and the new Overwatch IP debuting, there wasn’t a need for a big D3 display. And with the time saved from that, they got much more work done on the game.

    He didn’t say a word about what they were working on, but it’s pretty obvious it’s an expansion, the way Josh and others replied to questions during Friday’s panel. Note that all the content announced at Blizzcon is just more of what we’ve had. Season Two, a few more legendary items, a few new item sets, old Legendaries with improved Legendary Affixes, etc. The only public info we have is them working on patches with incremental improvements for RoS, while their main dev efforts are on the yet to be announced expansion.

    At least that’s my impression, and I suppose I could be wrong? It happened before. Once, I think…

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    1. early spam junk screen is photoshopped 🙂
      wat bloodshards and old classic font and..
      http://static1.gamespot.com/uploads/original/1044/10442090/2562221-5882768694-image.png

    2. It is really hard not to applaud their honesty and self-criticism on the crappiness of the game after release.

      It could have been much better if they never did those mistakes, but hey at least they learned and now trying to do -more or less- the right things since then.

      • Sure the story of how the new guys 'changed diablo 3' is great, but why bother telling it when they just announced they are going to hurt the reward structure with ancient weapons? Or by announcing 'we fixed that everyone does the same thing over and over'…wait a second…there's something other than rift and maybe get a rorg?

        'Better randomization' doesn't change the repetition of a single game mode…Granted it's still better than vanilla, but at the same time I feel like they are missing exactly what they are saying they now understand.

        • I feel like I should add that they made the storymode option of gameplay irrelevant when they added endless rifting.

          We want more game play options…not less.

          • To be honest, diablo is not a game that you play for the story.

            • That could be fixed easily, by adding additional abilities or power increases to legendaries in conjunction to individual runes. Then tie activating an individual skillrune centered ability and/or slowly increasing its or previously activated effects in power to collecting dozens or more small snippets on the legends surrounding the item and its better known previous owners. Best out of the viewpoint of all the different kinds of existing/extinct/demonic/angelic/?alien?/… script based cultures, sanctuario has to offer, and wrapped in a seperate lorebook screen, turning more and more into a more or less precise timeline from sanctuarios recent down to its ancient history, the greater the players/characters collection of "countless" snippets on the legends of all these shiny legendaries gets. Would make for a good read over time, when taking a break from the actual gameplay.

              And even if it would take 150 snippets to collect to bring one skill/legendary combination out to the fullest of a tiny 15%, as long as the tiny upgrades keep on rolling in periodically enough, everyone would hunt for these. And could read through them online to speculate on which other items are uniquely suited to one his prefered skills and perhaps better suited for one his personal preference in gameplay.

              Quite frankly, though, I'd see this as a possible alternative version of the same legendary affix implementation Blizz has tried, though I'd say radical changes of 80% power increase and game changing properties instead just mediocre increases and simple additional effects added, would not be out of the question here. It appeals to me as being the far more interesting idea to integrate of skill changing legendary effects into the game. More flexible, more gradual, more often offering feelings of achievement and probably far easier to balance – especially to itemization, as it would allow for revisions and plans on longterm development independently from legendary affixes their being bound to now, while at the same time being able to yield one or more entirely different effects to individual skills to other classes.

              Being able to balance itemization centered on each class individually, freeing room for a multitude of skillchanging variety, while still being able to better balance out differences in power between builds across all classes, should make for a good argument that a developer should always have at least one ear open to.

              But as my preference as a roleplayer in building this knowledgebase accumulation idea up centered on a character by character basis has already been crashed from start by Blizzs pre release decision of reducing the most opportunities of individual character binding by making it all about the account makes my hopes thin Blizz actually putting work into gameplay enhancing design elements. You could perhaps take more control over the frequency of tiny, less impacting upgrades vs. the big effect activating ones by arranging them by three to five rarity tiers, only dropping all rarities only for the respective class the players currently playing and balancing it to feeling right by iterating out to which level of rarities legend snippets of other characters should drop, but whatever. Legendary affixes have these one, unbeatable merrit to Blizzard, no other solution: Free from the most of possibly eleminateable obscurity and perhaps just this tiniest of mystery crumbs left after just the first, quick glance.

              I'm getting old. I'm getting bitchy because missing old times. Sorry for that, Blizz. I won't take the things said back, though…

            • Forgot one last thing: I'll take any bet, that if you've realized skill changing item effects the way I've describe above, diablo not being a game that you play for the story would be something of a history far, far away… 😉

          • Well, GR's are basically the endless dungeons everybody was screaming for. It would be nice if bounties would have some additional benefits so they would be equally rewarding.

            And power inflation will always be there. My monk is reaching his plateau, good to have new farming goals 🙂

    3. Josh really does tell his own historiography of how he (a bunch of other sensible devs) diagnosed the problems of the early game and came to fix them.
      Often times we, as outsiders, may not be aware of institutional challenges to be the first to tell what you really think in meetings. Status quo can really be an immovable force and it is hard to challenge it. Kudos to Josh for being honest and courageous.

      Also, it seems that PC gamers owe a lot to console version of Diablo3. It looks that the success of the console version really strengthened the hands of the challengers against the original designers of the game. I don't even own a console, but I thought we should acknowledge it.

    4. "The world design that incentivized players to run and rerun the same monsters,"

      So, Rifts?

      • But different. Because random?

        • Their point was to prevent us from spending more time on the quest selection screen than in game also.
          Rifts give 10-20min playing session, randomized (not completely Alkaizer like). You can chain them without restarting the game, and in order to do them you first need anyway to run bounties.

    5. This is one of the times, where I'm literally damning being stuck with 8kb/s down due to download limit restrictions. I'd love to watch the pannel, as the points you've referenced are indeed indicating that they've understood, where they've been on the wrong track, while visible elements on ongoing development are showing that they still haven't understood the why (, which is lacking an artistic design vision for the franchise and its longterm developement, ) and thus are still repeating them, though just in a slightly different, more harmonized form.

      It also stands out, that the degree of acknowledged mistakes is high, that are similar to the doubts already voiced by the critical parts of the community prerelease, whenever talking about the respective elements during the hype-phases – down to quite congruent descriptions of their negative impacts feared then to the negative impacts acknowledged now.

      And I'd really like to know more about their genuine perspective on their own mistakes, as it shows best still existing errors in their thinking, blocking them from developing a real, new vision for the franchise. Because then I (, or another fan, ) could try and help them on their way of regaining it, instead of just being in the rather useless role of a sideline commentator.

      Because I love the franchise. Even the popcorn version, the current state of D3 in my eyes still is. But I'm aching for a full and feisty meal and more sugar coated popcorn in just another taste variation simply does not do the trick.

    6. edith: […] and thus are still repeating the same mistakes, though just in a slightly different, more harmonized form.

    7. its kinda nice that they admit their mistakes (mistakes the player base already know for so long).

      then again, it be nice if they made a segway and answer what are they going to do with the limited gear storage, useless legendaries and sets (invoker i am looking at you), choking up the loot table with pointless drops and just burning out the player base after finding the 500th legendary that does crap all to improve the character(s) except contribute to a bloated stash of crafting mats.

      also, the "best" items in the game shouldn't have a 0.1% or 1.X% drop chance. everything should have a 5 – 10% drop chance. Artifically blocking the players from end game builds with multiple layers of "RNG" is terrible game design, like it or not.

      its 2014. grinding is passe game design. do they not realize this?

      • I don't believe that 'grinding is passe' is at all true. Possibly in the mind of the internet generation.

        Rarity and effort both result in rewarding experiences. Common and easy to obtain are mundane.

        Saying, everyone is rich, is exactly the same as saying no one is.

      • Your comment on the set invoker brings me back to the critical hit style deflection themed affix property idea, that I'd thrown around in the comment section of Fluxs article asking for questions for the upcoming interview. I just always liked the thorns idea, at least since the druid joined the ranks of D2s classes. And focusing on the concept of deflection as a method of creating opportunities for counter attacks by use of the opponents own attack power, and thus deflection as a combined offensive and defensive affix, I wonder if this games version of thorns could be put into the green again…

        Furthermore only taking the offensive part and thorns into account: If synergizing with both Invoker and Sanguis (that don't synergize with each other), would up to 60% chance and 4.5 multiplier (+ 350%) be enough to perhaps bring one or both of these into an area of feasible usability? At least for Sanguis I'm thinking more of [(4.5*11)/2=24,75] or [(4.5*11)/3=16,5] as formula behind, rather than direct multiplication of both [4,5*11=49,5] or their simple addition [4,5+11=15,5], though. Anyone up to giving an estimation?

        • Ahh… forgot that Sanguinis provides a 10 times multiplicator, not a 1000% increase. Again, from most prefered to least:

          [(4.5*10)/2=22,5]
          [(4.5*10)/3=15]
          [4,5+10=14,5]
          [4,5*10=45]

        • Just to bring the whole idea together at some point:

          Affixes: Deflection Chance / Deflection Effectivity
          Attribute ties: – – – – – / Dexterity [-> Armor works, but ain't interesting]
          Independent Base values: 5% / 5% (50%)
          Increase from Items (no shield): max. +45% / max. +30% (+300%)
          Increase from Shields: max. + 10% / max. +10% (+100%)
          Increase from Dex: – – – – – / +1% (+10%) for 500 Dex

          Usage description: Redirecting the force of an enemy attack, to increase opportunities for more damaging retaliations

          Affix uses:

          a) Deflection Chance: Chance to trigger on being hit

          b) Deflection Effectivity:

          1. Offensive:

          – Damage from effects simultaniously triggered by the same hit taken is increased by 5%-60%
          – Damage from all sources of thorns damage is increased by 50%-600%

          2. Defensive:

          – Incoming damage is reduced by 5%-60%

    8. Still no mention of consoles orcwhat future plans do they have for them.. Console players payed as much money as PC players (if not more due to rebuking the game for rose first then for next-gen consoles.. We deserve as much attention and content as PC players… If we aren't getting seasons we deserve something in return as well as all the items from the previous seasons.. And yet we hear nothing about us console players like we don't matter at all.

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